Don’t Talk Yourself Out of a PR Career

Young woman sticking her tongue outI recently read a blog post from someone I know who’s hunting for a job. It was posted on Facebook and, I’m assuming, other social media sites as well, which is bad, because in it he makes a strong case against ever being hired in the PR profession.

I’ve observed this person, and even made attempts to provide contacts, tips, and professional development opportunities, to no avail. Since I can’t seem to help this person individually (and I’m not going to name him publicly), I’m going to explain in general terms what he’s doing wrong, in the hopes that others might avoid these same mistakes…and yes, I’ll be venting a little, because it’s incredibly frustrating to watch someone self-destruct professionally and alienate the very people he needs on his side in his job search. He’s working hard at never working professionally again, and is close to succeeding. He’s certainly succeeded in making me stop attempting to help. My first reaction after reading his blog post was distinctly unprofessional, I’ll admit. After taking some time to cool off and do some unprofessional venting of my own to the sympathetic ears of my spouse and dogs, I decided to try to help in a more general, professional way.

So here’s how to make sure you don’t talk your way out of a career:

1.  Be aware of your economic and social environment – and deal with it.

The recession hit this country hard, particularly the fields of advertising, PR and marketing, and the recovery is just now beginning to take hold. A lot of very qualified people lost their jobs, and the competition is tough. Yes, I understand the urgency of bills coming due each month – I’ve been there myself – but I can’t snap my fingers and make it change instantly. Don’t waste time complaining – it make temporarily make you feel better to vent, but don’t let it become a habit. Habits are hard to break once they’re established, especially habits of mind, and negativity is an especially destructive habit. Figure out a strategy for dealing with the reality you’re in, and stick with it. Find one thing each day you can be positive about, and make it a habit to start your day with it.

2.  Stop the whining.

Nobody likes a whiner. It’s depressing and tiring to listen to, and it drags everyone down. Whine in professional settings, and people are going to wonder what it’d be like to work with you each day – and they’re going to decide that they’d rather not have to deal with your negativity on top of the stress in the workplace every day.

3.  Don’t expect instant results

Yes, this is a social media world, but getting a job is still a traditional process. You may be in a rush, but for the hiring department, checking resumes, interviewing candidates and calling references is just one more thing in their already overloaded workday. They’re working on their schedule, not yours. The business world doesn’t revolve around you. This person showed initiative by starting a job club, then abandoned it after one or two meetings. Employers are looking for people who can demonstrate determination, and he tossed away the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that trait.

4.  Ask for advice, then complain about it – publicly.

Publicly complaining about advice is the same as ridiculing the person who gave it to you, probably because you asked them for that advice. How do you think that makes them feel? And do you really think they’re going to help you again, or pass on that tip about a job opening they’ve just heard about after you’ve done that?

5.  Ask for advice, then refuse to take it.

If you ask an established professional for job search advice, you might want to consider at least trying it before dismissing it out of hand. There’s a reason why that particular piece of advice was offered.

6.  Don’t be negative.

Negativity holds people back in two ways. It’s just flat out uncomfortable to be around someone who’s constantly bitching and moaning in every conversation you have with them. Yes, sometimes the urge to vent and say something negative is overpowering. Life can be a pressure cooker, and you need to let off a little steam every now and then. We get it – we’ve all been there. But not every day, every conversation, all the time. It’s not that you don’t have valid complaints, but it wears people down to always be subjected to your negativity, and they’ll start to avoid you. Isolation is not going to help your chances at finding that job you’re hunting for. People will be a lot less likely to help you to further your search if all you do is see the worst in everything and everyone. When I recommend someone for a particular job, that someone becomes a personal reflection on my professional reputation. I’m not going to refer someone for a position if it’s going to reflect badly on me – that’s just reality.

7.  If you must vent, do so carefully.

Yes, life is frustrating at time, doubly or triply so when there’s a job search involved. Yes, you’re entitled to vent. But if you must do so publicly, be careful what you say and where you say it. Save the extreme negativity for someone who knows you well. Don’t unload on those who only know you in the professional arena. If you must vent to them, try to keep the negativity down. Is there something positive you can say?

8.  Don’t name names –unless you’re saying something nice.

I met this person in a professional organization, and over the past year or so I’ve recommended a few other groups to help him make contacts in his town and improve some social skills. I was stunned to see his online diatribe a few weeks ago blasting these groups publicly for not helping him with his job search. This followed his receipt of an award one of these groups (of which I am also a member) for his outstanding work for the first part of the year. When I congratulated him on his award, he told me to my face that he felt like “throwing it in the trash.” Um, yes, thanks for denigrating an organization I’ve put 10+ years of commitment into, and see if I ever help you again. You obviously don’t have the discretion and social awareness to avoid offending people gratuitously. Even more puzzling is that he’s still in the group. Why? If you don’t value the group, quit. Focus on groups you actually like and get something you value from.

I once sat at a PRSA luncheon at a table with a young woman who was searching for a job. She spent the entire networking portion of the event telling those of us at the table about how horrible the administrators and professors at her school were, how they hated her and tried to wreck her education, and how she couldn’t stand them. Needless to say, when she handed out her card, I accepted it, and promptly tossed it in the trash when I got back to the office. If you talk about previous employers or professional colleagues like that, I don’t want to be in the position of your previous employer one day, and have you say similar things about me.

9.  Take a brutally honest look at yourself, and fix what you see.

If you’re having trouble finding a job, you need to examine the situation and ask yourself why. Are you applying to the wrong type of position? Is your resume ineffective? Are you lacking a particular skill set? Are you creating the wrong impression? Are you sabotaging yourself unknowingly? What needs to be fixed? What CAN you fix? This person projects a negative aura and those who encounter him notice. So ask someone you trust how others see you – and don’t get upset at them with what they tell you. If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you can’t fix it. Thank them for it, even if you’re hurt by what they say. Then learn from it and fix it.

10.  Improve your skills – socially and professionally.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that those who are not as skilled socially are more susceptible to remaining unemployed. Not everyone is born socially adept or charismatic. But with practice and a healthy dose of self-awareness, social skills can be learned. Always be aware of those around you, and pay attention to how they respond to you.

There is no magical formula for finding that perfect job – or any job for that matter. But you don’t have to make it harder on yourself by shutting doors between yourself and others how just might be able and willing to help you. I hope this helps. Good luck!




    • Sheri Ziemann on May 26, 2014 at 11:03 pm
    • Reply


    I worked in the PR business for a decade, and the business world for another. I did a LOT of networking, hiring and firing during that time. You are SPOT ON.

    Another thing I think is worth mentioning: actually WORKING in the PR business uses the very same skills one needs to job search successfully.

    Networking–making a POSITIVE name for oneself, becoming memorable in a good way, presenting with a physically appropriate appearance, knowing what you’re talking about, and making others around you, and who work with you, feel good about themselves, you, and the work you’re doing together–all of these things tell the person hiring a job candidate that she or he can do the job successfully. It’s like an “audition” of sorts.

    If you don’t know how to network successfully when looking for a job, how well will you handle, media relations? That part of PR is all about GOOD RELATIONSHIPS.

    I daresay your “friend” who’s looking for a plum job in PR might be better suited in a different field…one that has neither “Public” NOR “Relations” in the title!

  1. Sheri, you’re right. Part of me is incredulous that this needs to be spelled out, but part of me is no longer surprised. I’ve seen this all too often.

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